About Me

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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Saturday, 31 January 2009

It's All A Matter Of Relativity

Well here I am in Pizza Pioneer enjoying a breakfast garlic panini. I’m hoping all this coffee will wash the wine and whisky of last night out of my system and get me ready for the long day ahead. Not working so far, but give it time. Anyway, the two guys behind me have just had the following interesting exchange,

“Have you tried that 99p Greene King pint at Wetherspoons?”“Fack off. I’d rather drink Lees."

Harsh, but fair in this case.

Sail Away

In a further attack on the sacred role that alcohol plays in the development of children, we now face it being removed from our nursery rhymes. Bookstart, a government funded charity, have rewritten the words to “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor.”

This classic sea shanty has had all references to drunken sailors removed and replaced with “Grumpy Pirates.” No longer shall we “Throw him in the brig”, but rather “Tickle him till he starts to giggle.” Bookstart have denied this is political-correct meddling, but rather a case of finding a tune to fit a theme. But then why not write your own? Do not bastardise an existing classic. It’s bad enough that we’ve already lost verses such as “Stick him in a bag and beat him senseless” and the picturesque “Shave him with a rusty razor”, but this is the last straw.

And, if you want a pirate theme, what’s wrong with a drunken one?

Friday, 30 January 2009

Boozing Bairns (Young Drunks Go For It)

Now I’m officially confused. For years we were told that Britain’s binge drinking culture was the main cause of anti-social problems. And the reason we have a binge drinking culture? Because we were out of step with our continental neighbours. They didn’t have the problems we did because they had a responsible attitude to God’s greatest gift. The French were held up as role models, as they allowed their children to grow up with alcohol-serve it at meals etc. This meant that they would be better equipped to handle it later in life.

The prohibitionist attitude of Britain was counterproductive, we were told. Everyone seemed to agree that we should strive to emulate the cafe bar approach to relaxed drinking that is common in Europe. Hence the move to liberalise licensing laws, the first step to change our pattern of alcohol abuse. However, it seems that has gone by the wayside. Latest government advice is no booze for the bairns at all. Apparently parents are confused about how much alcohol they can give their little ones. Explaining the decision, Alan Johnson, Minister of the Bleeding Obvious said “we know that parents want more information about the harms associated with drinking to help them make this decision.”

Now surely even the Burberry wearing, bling laden chav classes know when little Kylie has had enough. If they wet themselves whilst watching Big Brother, or spill Stella on their Pooh Bear pyjamas, it’s time for bed. But just in case, I think the government should get the kiddies to learn this

A sip of wine is fine
But don’t be thick. Vodka makes you sick.

Get the little blighters to repeat this over and over and everything will be fine.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Trashed in Tokyo

Alcohol pricing (at both ends of the spectrum) has once more been all over the news. Firstly, there’s been a right rumpus over Oldham nightclub Tokyo and their £5.99 “all you can drink” offer. Yes, between 1100-03000 on Fridays, you can get as many refills as you like-Tim Martin eat your heart out. Naturally this isn’t popular in all quarters, with local MP Phil Woolas saying “You may as well have a sign that says, 'Come to Oldham and you'll get beaten up'." Catchy, but I can’t see the English Tourist Board using it.

Now Oldham town centre is notoriously dodgy at weekends, but both the police and the local licensing authorities have told Mr Woolas that they are powerless to stop it. After all, there’s no law preventing someone giving alcohol away. Perhaps he should complain to the government? Hold on-he is the government, or part of it anyway. Tokyo’s John Johnson has defended the move, claiming that it is simply a reaction to market forces. According to him, there are places in Halifax and (drum roll), Bury selling drinks for 90p a go. Sadly not where I drink, with even Wetherspoons wanting 99p for a pint of pigswill.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the market, we have Marco Pierre White selling real ale at £4 (soon to be £5), a pint. Why? Because he can, of course. To be fair, there is some validity in his reasoning, although the part about being responsible and charging more “so drivers drink less” is complete bollocks. Personally I won’t like to pay £5-or even £4-for Black Sheep, but if you’re that way inclined you can find it for £3.25 in Manchester. I’m also told that Tandleman’s favourite tipple-JW Lees Bitter- is now over £3 at the same establishment. Somehow I don’t think the Tandle Hill Tavern will be losing its favourite son, just yet.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Paint My Wagon

So farewell then, Chris Evans. The Radio 2 DJ has announced his retirement from the game. He says he has “retired unhurt” from drinking and that he “has no regrets.” A true professional, he visited his local 18 days in a row before quitting and had this to say, “It was a blast. I have no regrets and I'm not quite sure how I came through it alive but now it's someone else's turn. Good luck out there." Thanks Chris, I’ll try to make you proud.

Monday, 26 January 2009

They Think It's All Over-It Is Now

Well it’s all over. The inns and taverns of Manchester are once more free of marauding ale drinkers. A chap can safely leave his seat without fear that, on his return, it will have been snagged by a group of pot-bellied, bearded, sandal wearing, beer ticking weirdoes. Not surprisingly it was quiet around town today, with a depleted selection in many pubs as they take a bit of a breather. So, how was it for you?

Over at the main event in town-the NWAF, the view on the streets was that CAMRA had probably got it right with the awards. Oakham Attila isn’t bad, although personally I prefer the runner up-Elland 1872. As usual, plenty of punters were left frustrated at the lengthy queues and made do with the pub fests. Some even did both. I warmed up for the event with free fish & chips at the Metro Fish Bar-so popular that several selfish drivers parked on the pavement, even though there is a perfectly good car park. Where’s a traffic warden when you need one?

The scooping fraternity were left enthralled by the Smithfield’s tick fest. A case of never mind the quality, feel the quantity, in my view, but the line of scooping trolleys waiting to get certainly was a sight to behold. Over at the Crescent, things also could have been better. The place itself is looking really distressed now and there’s no excuse for chairs with no seats. Plus points for offering an evening menu though-very sensible during a beer festival, although obviously I didn’t take that easy option.

Beer wise, the Crescent does need to raise the quality threshold. Too many of the beers, particularly those straight from the cellar, lacked condition. Having said that, there was no excusing Hornbeam’s overhyped Blackcurrant (5.4%), which promised much but delivered little. Not being a Hornbeam fan, I held my tongue, but everyone was of the same opinion. It was like someone had poured Blackcurrant concentrate in a wheat beer. Hold on, they have-what a waste. It’s the first beer in a series to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Opening Times, a local CAMRA magazine. Let’s hope the others are a lot better. I was also struck by the poor quality of Leeds Resolution, the first bad one I’ve had from them. Coach House Cinnamon did what it said on the label, whilst Harviestoun Haggis Hunter proved surprisingly hoppy. Also good was Elgoods Wisbech Winter Ale, which was spicy and warming, a real gem for 3.8%.

Another surprise when Pictish Northern Dawn turned out to be rather bland, but Phoenix Spend Spend Spend redressed the balance. The New Oxford weighed in with its share of interesting brews, as well. The Phoenix Cheap as Chips was below par for them, as was Elland Silver Lining. However, Elland Northern Sky was crisp and hoppy and Wensleydale Sheep Rustlers Nut Brown Ale proved quite complex and satisfying. But man does not live by beer alone and, somehow or other, I eventually found myself in the Bank enjoying the pleasures of late night Talisker with the WHB. All was going well until I returned from the bar to find him fending off the attention of not one, but three, sex-starved pensioners. Worryingly, he didn’t seem to be trying too hard...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Message In A Bottle

In a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”, details have emerged about drunken shenanigans in an Ipswich cop shop. Shockingly, it seems the boys (and girls) in blue like a drink as much as the rest of us. A little too much for the liking of their bosses in the Suffolk constabulary. Hilariously timed to coincide with a crackdown on Christmas binge drinking, five officers managed to disgrace themselves in and around the station bar.

Dubbed the “boys in booze scandal”, it led to a six month probe and a temporary halt of alcohol sales. Details are tantalisingly sketchy but include: A sergeant demoted to constable for exposing his truncheon, a woodentop vomiting in the station and fisticuffs after one PC was caught urinating on the station wall. Not surprisingly the drunks in blue aren’t taking this lying down and have appealed against their punishment. After all, if you can’t get pissed at a police station, where can you?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

NWAF and Other Wonders

The National Winter Ales Festival is nearly upon us and I’ve had a few inquiries in connection with it. Several of the heavyweight pubs are hosting events of their own to coincide with it and, indeed, the Crescent’s has already begun. The Smithfield is also having a tickers fest-bring your Bensons & Hedges and you’ll feel right at home. With Camra continuing with their controversial local beer selection policy, the Marble Arch are cashing in with their “Not The Winter Ales Festival” theme. So if you want local ales of the calibre of All Gates, Boggart, Lees and Leyden, try the NWAF. However, if you want award winning local ales such as Phoenix and Pictish, you’ll need to visit the Marble.

Other information people seem to think I’d know: The best Indian is of course subjective, but I would recommend East Z East on Blackfriars. There isn’t really a top-notch chippy, with quantity winning over quality here. Ditto pizza, although Pizza Express comes nearest. On the buffet front, it’s hard to beat Efes on Princess St. And, especially for Tony M, lap-dancing wise, Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, tells me Longlegs is the place to study female anatomy.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Let Them Eat Cheese

Out with the old. In with the new. Bush may have departed the White House, but he’s left Obama with a terrible legacy. Not Iraq. Nor the crumbling economy. It’s the war on cheese. In one final, mean-spirited act, the bungling, bonkers Texan cowboy, found time to approve a 300% import duty increase on Roquefort. This blue-veined, sheep’s cheese classic is, of course, a symbol of French gastronomic excellence and that seems to be the point. The Bush administration wanted revenge on the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”, and knew where to hit where it will hurt.

Ostensibly, this is about the beef war raging between the USA and the EU. The land of Lincoln want to be able to poison Europeans with their beef that is pumped full of growth hormones. Not surprisingly, the EU, with France taking the lead, have said no thanks. After all, Europe has plenty of crap meat itself-there’s no need to import it. The Americans have retaliated by imposing heavy import duties on EU foodstuffs. Except British goods, naturally-a reward for our governments continued begging for the EU to allow us to be poisoned by imported meat.

Interestingly, although Roquefort was already taxed at 100% import duty, it was the only foodstuff to face such an increase. The message was clear-the French were being punished again for their perceived anti-American stance. The land of OJ is playing politics with cheese. Which is just wrong? Famously, last time import duty was raised, French farmers leader, Jose Bove, attacked the local McDonalds with mallets and a bulldozer. Let’s hope for something similar this time, as this attack on the freedom of cheese buyers cannot go unavenged. The first thing Obama needs to do is right this wrong and restore faith in the land of the free.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Called To The Bar

So farewell then, John Mortimer. Raconteur, essayist and creator of Horace Rumpole-who was known to enjoy the odd bottle of Chateau Thames Embankment. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at literary lunches and at the odd book signing and he was always good value for money. His maxim "I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward." is worth remebering as well.

Stockport Supping

Another day, another rest. Or so I thought last night, anyway. Not quite. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had other ideas. Seems the Manx Minx was busy knitting him a new legal loincloth. So we were free to discuss the works of Proust and his influence on the writings of Graham Greene.

For a change, we decided to have a couple of warm up drinks in Stockport. It’s only 10 minutes train ride away from Manchester and has a plethora of decent pubs. We started at the GBG listed Olde Vic, at the Edgeley side of Stockport town centre. This is a one-roomed freehouse complete with eccentric landlord, eccentric opening hours (evenings only), and an eclectic mix of pub ornaments. With its open fire, this can be a great place to enjoy the local craic. Unfortunately, tonight was a disappointment, with only 2 guest beers on-poor for a Friday night.

Tentatively opting for Hornbeam Hoppy Presents, we soon had cause to regret our decision. It looked good and there wasn’t too much in the aroma to give it away. However, that taste of crystal malt and cabbage is one that really lingers. A truly disgusting beer. So bad we were unable to finish it and fled at the earliest opportunity. Eddie hadn’t been to our next destination-the Olde Woolpack, before and was looking forward to it. A comfortable multi-roomer, it was a welcome break from the cold rain. Alas, Thwaites was the best it had to offer on this occasion and although the Wainwrights was fine, it’s hardly worth coming to Stockport for.
Our last stop was unlikely to let us down and it didn’t. The Crown lies in the shadow of the imposing viaduct and boasts 16 handpumps-although we had to make do with a measly 12. We enjoyed all the beer here, including Marble J.P in top nick and a very impressive Salopian Resistance. This 3.9% golden ale blends German, American and British hops for a very dry, satisfying thirst quenching brew.

The clock was ticking, so we made our move back into Manchester. Walking into the centre, we were lured by the close proximity of the toilets in the Piccadilly and whilst there managed a pint of the reasonably priced (£2.20) Unicorn. Eventually we made our way to the Angel, where we were treated to a lock-in with the proprietor and several pints of Phoenix Arizona. Our last stop of the night was a late call at Hunters for rice and three, where I was somewhat outraged at being told that they now charge for water. Still, not a bad little excursion out.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Drink While You Work

Pablo Caya, from Lima, Peru, will no doubt be celebrating today with a drink or two. For, in an unusually sensible ruling for the legal profession, Peru’s highest court has ruled that he was unfairly dismissed and has ordered his reinstatement.

Caya, a caretaker with the local authority, was sacked for being drunk at work. However, the court deemed this disproportionate and unreasonable. As it pointed out in its ruling; he wasn’t rude or violent and had carried his work out as usual. Makes me wonder just how drunk he was? Anyway, let’s all raise a glass to this champion of worker’s rights. Where Peru leads, the rest of the world follows...

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Lesson To Us All

Don't drink and drive. Well, not on a stolen Asda mobility scooter, anyway.
www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1090559_drunk_in_charge_of_asda_scooter

The legend that is the Lancashire Hotpots have, of course, chronicled the trials and tribulations that driving these scooters can bring.
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=hql4moBFCuI

An MP Writes

This is the reply I received from my MP, David Chaytor, after contacting him about the Axe The Beer Tax campaign.

Thank you for your recent e-mail on beer taxation and its impact on pubs. I read with interest the five point plan put forward by Axe the Beer Tax for the revival of British pubs.

I share the concerns of many other members of the public regarding beers sales being down to their lowest level for nearly 40 years. Bury contains many fine pubs, though sadly I am aware that some of the more well known have closed their doors in the last year.

I do recognise the valuable contribution that the pub industry makes to employment, the life of local communities and to the economy. I’m also aware of the pressures that pubs face with increasing costs and the impact of legislation. It is also true that the pub market is continuously changing, with shifting tastes and consumer preferences all affecting the demand for beer.

However, recent tax changes should be seen alongside action on the economy that will also benefit all businesses including pubs. Pubs will be able to benefit from a range of measures to support small businesses, and many small local breweries already benefit from a lower rate of alcohol duty because of the small brewery relief introduced in 2002.

The recent tax changes also mean that households have on average an extra £20 a month to spend – over £12 billion for the wider economy - supporting spending and consumption further. This will help to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses, including those in the pub industry.

Please be assured that I will continue to support these and other measures that help the businesses and the people who make the British pub such an important part of our national life.

Thank you for writing to me about this important matter.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Some Enchanted Evening

My plans for a quite night in last night were ruined once again by Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He was desperate to discuss the films of Francis Truffaut, so I was forced to venture out into the beer jungle that is Bury.

With the TS closed, the natural meeting place was the Peel. Nothing too exciting here, but we gambled on Saltaire Rye Smile which, like most rye beers, failed to set our taste buds alight. Not wishing to spend the night on that and there being a distinct sweaty smell present, we moved on.

A bus ride took us up to the Towler and some Golden Pippin. A little tired, perhaps. Was this the same barrel that they had kindly put on for us on Sunday 0030? It might explain things. Anyway, it was back on the bus for us as we headed for the Good Sam. The Pippin here was much better and we gratefully sank a few. We’d already decided to move onto the Hare & Hounds when, as if a sign from the gods, the Pippin ran out.

The Dogs didnBold’t disappoint, with a good mix across the board. First to catch our eye was one of the elusive Pictish single hop beers. These get tickers frothing at the mouth and some non-tickers as well. Being a long time Pictish fan, I’m always keen to try them, but sourcing them is difficult. Needless to say, Bobek was another variety I knew nothing about. The beer poured exceptionally light (0.5 on colour scale) and clear. There was a strong, unusual (juniper?) aroma which led onto a delightfully rounded, continental style lager beer. Not surprising as my hop encyclopaedia tells me that Bobek is grown in Slovenia and is a mild aroma hop. Certainly this offering wasn’t as bitter as some Pictish beers can be, but none the worse for that.
From a new beer to a new brewery-to me anyway. Backyard are based in the Midlands and their Blonde (4.1%) was pleasantly buttery. A very new brewery is Art, who have only been brewing since September 2008 I believe. Situated in Dorset, their Dark Brut (5%) was complex, seemingly a Belgium-style winter ale. Yeast and spice are all present and whilst I can see a lot of people liking this, it wasn’t for me. Much more to my taste was Outlaw Wrangler which we enjoyed a few pints of.

Although it went untried, I was impressed with the new pumpclip for Bank Top Flat Cap-a real improvement and great to see the mighty Fred featured in living colour.

Blood On The Tracks

The Trackside on Bolton Street Station is closed for the moment amid speculation about its future. No manager and no licence, but that’s not even the biggest problem it faces. Despite being a goldmine for the East Lancs Railway, there is a faction of influential members who want to retain it as their own private club. It’s feared they’ve engineered the current crisis to get their own way and if successful the pub will close its doors for good. Local tickers and steam buffs await their decision with baited breath. In the meantime, it presents a sorry sight, with a stack of used firkins lying out back. Reports reach me that former regulars such as Sir Mickalas and Dead Ed have been seen weeping in the streets.

Update: With no one in charge to ensure staff coverage, it's open ad hoc hours, so visitors beware.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Now Ain't The Time For Your Tears

I see that William Zantzinger is reported to have kicked the bucket. Zantzinger, a racist, tax dodger, fraudster and, not least, murderer was the subject of Bob Dylan’s classic “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”*. Music folklore has it that it was composed one long night in a coffee shop on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. It appeared on 1964’s seminal The Times They Are A-Changin’ and conferred unwanted musical immortality on Zantzinger.

Hattie Carroll was a 51yr old black barmaid and mother of eleven. She was unlucky enough to be on duty in the early hours of Feb 9th, 1963 at the Emerson Hotel, Baltimore. Zantzinger was a 24 year’s old, 6’2’’ wealthy tobacco farmer. And a notorious drunk. Having already assaulted several of the hotel staff, he became enraged when Carroll was slow delivering his bourbon and struck her with his 25 cent cane. Shortly afterwards, she became ill and collapsed, dying eight hours later.

At his trial, Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter and, mindful of his possible treatment in the state penitentiary, given a mere 6 months in the local gaol. Of course, this didn’t affect his standing in the local community and, after his release; he went into real estate and became a pillar of local commerce. In later years he was pursued by the IRS and finally, in 1991, the law caught up with him. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for the little matter of collecting rent from black tenants for property he didn’t actually own. He continued to bemoan his musical notoriety until the end and complained that Dylan was a “no-account son of a bitch”.

I wrote to him once to tell him what a wanker he was. I never did get a reply.

*Billy Bragg later used the melody for his own poignant “The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie”, which stands alongside Dylan’s as a testament to the forgotten fallen.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Every Little Drink Helps

Everyone’s favourite grocer, Tesco, is facing two separate investigations amongst claims that it has indulged in “bait advertising.” This is the illegal practice of advertising goods knowing that there is insufficient stock of said goods. Seems hard to believe, I know. In this case, it’s that bĂȘte noire of politicians-cut-price booze. Specifically, a one-litre bottle of Baileys. Tesco were advertising it for £8 and Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, tried to buy a bottle in Liverpool, only to find it sold out. Not easily deterred, she tried two further stores with the same result. A phone call to customer services had Tesco admitting that each store would receive only limited numbers.

Rightly miffed, Ms Cooper promptly complained to both Liverpool trading standards and the ASA, over how the offer was advertised. Tesco have refuted the charges, claiming that the information Ms Cooper received was “wrong.” Of course, it may be just coincidence that this admission came only after discovering she was an MP.

Talking of everyone’s favourite charity, I see that you can now redeem Clubcard vouchers for a course of Neuro-linguistic programming. Why? NLP is a pseudoscience that is all smoke and mirrors. It has all the scientific credibility of voodoo. First they deprive an MP of her right to get tanked up cheaply and now they are mixed up with this mumbo jumbo. What next? A Scientologist seminar on how to become a brainwashed nutter and give all your money away?

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Live From The Trackside

Another live as it happens blog post-this could become a habit. Just called in the Trackside and blimey. You don't go in for a week and it's all happening. Apparently it's been shut for 2 days as they've been without a licence. It seems Fag Ash Lil' has been given the order of the boot and it's all a bit chaotic. Dean hasn't got his personal licence yet, so they're operating temporarily under the wing of Brendan Leyden of Lord Raglan fame. A few well known faces are alleged to have shown interest in taking over. However, when they discover how badly it pays and just what crap employers the ELR are, I think the odds are against getting any big hitters to run it. Still, we live in hope.

Watch this space. Now where did I put my pint...

Friday, 9 January 2009

Manchester Folie A Deux

I thought a nice quiet rest was in order after the excesses of yesterday, but it was not to be. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had other ideas. He wanted to discuss Martin Luther’s 95 theses, one by one, over a Pepsi Max or two. So we arranged another visit to Manchester, with the intention of grabbing a pizza. Of course, the pizza never materialised-only more beer. Fishy buggers these legal types-next time I’m going to get it in writing.

First stop was the New Oxford. Unlike a lot of other places we’d visit that night, the NO was comfortably busy. Seated at the bar, we kicked off the house beer. Facers use to do the honours, but their inconsistency had put off more than one drinker. Now brewed by the excellent Mallinsons, it packs a pleasing dry bite for a sub 4% beer. Feeling daring, we tried a sample of Allgates What A YBoldear. I’d like to say it was amazing and changed my opinion of Allgates as a brewer. But I’d be lying. Cardboard was the dominant flavour here (GK would have been proud), with a very unpleasant phenolic finish. If only their brewers were as good as their marketing team-the damn stuff is all over the place. Desperate for cleansing, we managed to kill the taste with Salamander Gold.

A bit of a trudge took us along Liverpool Road and, whilst passing, we checked out the YMCA (or whatever it's called) hotel. Three Bazens on here, including their one-time show piece Blue Bullet. This use to be a well-hopped, crisp pint. A sad reflection of how poor their beers are now, it was worse than the Allgatesand tasted like some homebrew disaster. Peering through the window at Cask, we weren't tempted by the sole real ale
offering, so moved onto the Deansgate. This very comfortable, smart, pub was quiet, but the Coach House Cheshire Gold was in good condition. We popped round to Knott Bar and were unsurprised to find it disappointed once again. The Pevril was open today and, despite being quiet, delivered an excellent Golden Pippin. The Paramount, for the second time in the week, wasn’t worth lingering in. Ditto the Bank.

It was a different story at the Athenaeum on York St. This impressive building should be a jewel in Manchester’s drinking crown, but a legacy of neglect over several years has left it in need of some TLC. It went keg a long time ago but recently returned to the cask fold. Talking to the (sadly temporary), cask-enthusiastic barman, it seems it’s now the sister pub of the Piccadilly. We tried the reasonably (for central Manchester) priced Youngs and found it in sparkling form. Also available was their best seller-the rarely seen cask John Smiths. Apparently Smooth drinkers come in and ask for it and as they don’t sell the Smooth, they get the cask version instead. Only one person has complained so far. Seems you can fool some of the people all of the time.

The English Lounge couldn’t offer anything to tempt us, so it was straight round to the UnicItalicorn. This had its usual mix of characters. The sleek Polish blonde, obviously bored with her boyfriend, the strange couple with a laptop and, best of all, the two old dears out on a session. A pint of Carling with a whisky chaser-respect to the elderly binge drinkers. The Golden Pippin was in fine form, so we stayed there until we were the only ones left. Eventually we were politely evicted by the landlady and her sister-who, it seems, runs the Ralph Abercromby. Landladys of the old school, Eddie commented that had they been twenty years younger, they might have been worth a tickle. I said ten-well I like to think I’m always open to compromise....especially on a dark, cold, Thursday night in Manchester...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

What's It All About, Alfie?

Only two days in and poor old JDW are really getting it in the neck. Their crime? Daring to sell Greene King IPA for 99p a pint. Shocking! First to land a blow (no surprise), were puritanical killjoys Alcohol Concern. Chief Puritan, Don Shenker, lectured us with “In the economic climate, businesses need to be competitive. However, alcohol is not an ordinary commodity like milk or bread.” Too right, Don, it’s much more important than that. More pearls of wisdom soon followed “Alcohol causes harm to the nation’s health and economy.” But then so does unemployment and George Bush’s international policy. Not to mention Alistair Darling.

If predictable attacks from baying right-wingers weren’t enough, some snobby beer commentators have also been having a go. It’s “devaluing” real ale, damaging a “premium brand” and other such nonsense. Somehow I think it’ll take more than a pound a pint promotion to fill the streets with Greene King IPA fiends. Some might even argue that it’s finally reached its natural market value. Odds are it will put people off the real stuff for life. However, if it does bring even one convert from the dark side, it’s been worth it.

Best laugh of 2009 so far-Greene King distancing itself from the promotion, whilst simultaneously lining its pockets. Of course they have to make some noises-they will have some pretty miffed tenants after all. Still, the phrase “have your cake and eat it” does seem to spring to mind...

Monday, 5 January 2009

Cheese Of The Moment: Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar

The best Cheddars are those that are aged. The longer the maturation period, the better, I find. Unfortunately, a lot of British Cheddars are only aged for 12-18 months. No such problems for Canadian cheese devotees, as our Commonwealth cousins produce some truly wonderful Cheddar. Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar has at least three years to mature and it certainly shows in the taste. Low moisture levels during the lengthy gestation period means that this is one flavour packed cheese. Extra-sharp, with a smooth texture, this explodes on the tongue, leading to a delightfully tangy finish. One for the Cheddar aficionado.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Manchester Rambler

A cold, but dry Sunday. The perfect time for long, invigorating, country walks. A time for reflection and ponderation. Or throwing some beer down your neck. A repeat of the successful Rammy Ramble was planned, but prospective imbibers were falling faster than sterling. Hangovers, poverty, work tomorrow and pissing blood (I’ll allow that), were all given as excuses. Things were looking grim and then they got worse-Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was available. Seems the Manx Minx was busy sewing buttons on his tweed underpants. Apparently it’s an Olympic sport on the Isle of Man.

So, without the burden of dead weight, we decided to take a stroll across the great metropolis of Manchester. After the Tuesday night test, the second best day to gauge a pub’s mettle is Sunday. Like a backstreet hooker, it can be eager to please on a Saturday night, but how does it fare in the cold light of a Sunday afternoon? Rather predictably we started at the Marble Arch. All pumps in use, but far too many strong beers on-5.9%, 6.2% and not one, but two Porters on. Hmmm. Unable to decide on a guest beer, we went for their own Pint, which was nice and crisp. When in doubt, go by brewery and with Durham being the best on the bar, our next beer was Durham Wenceslas. This was a strong golden ale, with quite a fizz on the tongue.
Moving on, we took a look at the Angel, only to find it closed. As it was a new year, we decided to give Bar Fringe another chance. We found Tandleman’s favourite barperson in attendance, but nothing worth drinking. Ditto at the Crown & Kettle. A walk past the deserted Castle took us to the Unicorn. This was busy, with a heavy proportion of slightly tipsy older drinkers. Bass and two Copper Dragon beers were on the bar and we were soon nestling in a corner with some excellent Golden Pippin. There was nothing to tempt us at the Bank, or in the Waterhouse, but the City Arms had a reasonable selection. Here we had Arundel Sussex Gold, which was just on the acceptable side of cloying.

The Paramount disappointed with our chosen beer dying after less than a pint’s pull. The Pevril was closed as, surprisingly, was the Rain Bar. Lees are missing out on a busy Sunday trade judging by the numbers in the nearby Britons. Although its clientele may be too discerning to rough it with Middleton’s finest brewer. Settled by a welcoming fire, we enjoyed the rather summery Dizzy Blonde. Moving up Oxford Road, there was nothing in the Thirsty Scholar, but some rather fine Golden Pippin at Font. Further on still, Odd also delivered with more Pippin and we had a chat with Tim and Paulette from the New Oxford.

Hunger was rearing its ugly head by now and with the last tram departing at 1030, we decided to treat ourselves to a curry at Hunters. But when we got there, we had an unpleasant shock. Hunters was shut. Hunters is never closed, but it was. And the world kept on turning. Stunned, but still hungry, we had to seek sustenance elsewhere. A small cafe near the tram stop was our salvation. Sunday roast not being an option, I settled for a chip muffin. Then it was back to Bury where Eddie hurried off to try his newly rebuttoned undercrackers. The tram ride having made me thirsty I popped in the Trackside for a nightcap. Or two...

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Born To Ramble

After the excesses of the festive season, it’s time to detox. And what better way to detox than through the natural cleansing power of beer? A Rammy Ramble-an abridged version of the infamous Rammy Mile-was in order. First port of call was the Good Sam, where Lees, Golden Pippin and Deuchars were on offer. And, getting in the spirit of the credit crunch, beer had been reduced to £2 a pint. Golden Pippin at £2? We didn’t need telling twice and, like a herd of migrating wildebeest, we rushed to the bar. Suitably nourished we headed up the hill.

The First Chop was still quiet and the WHB and I settled down with some easy going Wainwrights. Archimedes went all metrosexual with a half of Ginger and a half of Wheat. He also sampled some Lancashire fishcakes-which he gave the nod to. Further along at the Major, it was all change on the beer front, with 3 guest beers on. Dent Frosty Weather (4.5%) was surprisingly light, but a little heavy on the palate. Hornbeam Lemon Blossom was surprisingly light on the lemon and heavy on the malt. Archimedes was hungry again and so we all decided to dine. My cheese & onion pie was divine, being substantial in both size and taste. Seems Archimedes is one of those poncy carnivores who likes his meat to be pink, instead of being properly done. Hugh Fearnley Whittington and his ilk have a lot to answer for.

A short bus ride took us to the Hare & Hounds which was by far the busiest pub of the day. A shock awaited us on the board, with not one, but two, Leyden’s on. And a Boggart. The Now that’s what I call cruel and unusual punishment. Still reeling, I went for Hambleton Festive Folly, which despite being straw coloured, was yet again heavy on the malt. The WHB was by now on the red wine but I played safe with Wild Mule. We decided to take the party down to the Trackside, where I was glad to see full board. Naylor’s Pale Ale and Copper Dragon were amongst the beers tried, whilst Archimedes and the WHB were knocking back the mulled wine. When mulled wine became whisky, I knew we were on the last leg. It was time to go home-after all we still didn’t know who the new Dr Who was...